Here’s one I prepared earlier! I've always wanted to say that ... This is from the gardening and cooking journals I keep. It’s fun to look back at what I was doing in the garden - this is from 14 april, only a few weeks ago. My how the weather has changed!
Another hot autumn day. Hot as in hot early in the morning, wishing I’d worn shorts on my start-the-day bike ride. Hot as in need a hat and plenty of water – for me and the garden.
I thought last weekend’s hard work in the garden would be a kind of last hurrah – feeding and mulching the soil one last time before tucking it in for its winter rest.
But this week I belatedly read my gardenate.com planting list and realised: cabbages!
I love eating cabbage, and last year I had some modest success growing the sugarloaf variety. It grows vertically – think of a large pointy pine cone sitting on its end. It’s smaller than your usual soccer-ball-round cabbage – making it a very efficient vegetable. Great for single gals like me: I get only one or two meals from it, so there are no greying vegies sitting reproachfully in my fridge. It’s compact size is also great for backyard gardeners with limited space.
So once at the nursery, I get seduced by a punnet of savoy cabbages too.
A savoy cabbage is round and big – but I love its darker, tightly crinkled leaves. To me, it’s the most spectacular variety of cabbage. The sugarloaf is practical – the savoy is magnificent.
These big beauties need lots of space – which I don’t have! So I just ignore the spacing recommendations and hope for the best.
How to plant your seedlings (how I do, anyway):
1 Prep your soil. Dig over where you want to plant, plus some space all around for the roots to venture into. I used my hoe, shipping then turning and lifting as if sifting flour. I add a good sprinkling of something called ‘rooster booster’ which I think adds nutrients into the soil. I’m not sure now – reasons lost in the mists of time – I just do it. Draw a light line in the soil as a planting guide (if you like straight lines like me). Then dot out where you’re going to put each seedling, using the spacing instructions on the punnet as a guide (or ignore them, if you’re like me).
2 Water the punnet of seedlings then pop out (like you would ice cubes). Gently, gently break and tease apart each seedling. Take your time; it can be tricky both if you’ve bought a young punnet where the roots are small and underdeveloped, and if you have one that’s been sitting at the nursery a tad too long and the roots are well developed and locking together. Sometimes it’s better to leave two together if they are too intertwined, rather than risk damaging them fatally.
3 Use your hand trowel to wiggle a little pocket into the soil, and then place the seedling into the opening. Gently firm the soil back into the pocket and around the seedling up to its base, helping it stand upright.
4 Protect your future dinner. Do you have wonderfully active blackbirds as I do, who love nothing more than digging out your seedlings to get to the worms you have tilled up to the surface for them (yes, this whole exercise was about them and their dinner, not you and yours!)?
Then put a guard around your seedlings. I have a collection of old plastic pots, with the bottom cut off them. I have also used largish yoghurt or margarine containers I have washed out and again, chopped the bottoms off. Place these over and around your seedlings, pinning down if necessary (I have some U-shaped wired, about a hand span long, that I made at dad’s place for this very purpose).
5 Next replace any mulch you’ve pushed back from the garden, placing it right up against those pot guards (which also stop the mulch from completely covering the small plants).
6 Water in the plants with a drink of seasol, diluted in your watering can. Apparently the stuff stops ‘transplant shock’ and gets plants off to a good start in life. Stinky stuff but good stinky. Then sprinkle around some snailbait (I like the small lurid turquoise ‘lentils’ that mum and dad gave me). Some people are anti-snailbait – I guess if you have children or pets you should be. But me, it’s essential. I want to be the one that eats these cabbages, not the snails and slugs!
Finally stick the punnet tag in the ground nearby, with the date on it, Stand back and admire your hard work, and dream about the meals to come!